Date of this Version
Published in J. Anim. Sci. 1991. 69:2092-2098.
Two experiments were conducted to test the following hypotheses: 1) exposure of beef heifers to sterile bulls increases the proportion of heifers attaining puberty by 14 mo of age and 2) rate of growth interacts with bull exposure to influence age at puberty in beef heifers. In Exp. I, heifers were assigned to one of two treatments: 1) heifers were exposed to bulls (BE approximately 70-d period of exposure) or 2) heifers were isolated from bulls (NE) and served as controls. In Exp. 11, heifers were assigned to either BE or NE treatments (175-d period of exposure to bulls) and were fed to gain at a moderate (MG; .6 kg/d) or high (HG; .8 kg/d) growth rate. Blood samples were collected twice weekly to determine concentrations of progesterone indicative of onset of corpus luteum function and puberty. In Exp. I a greater (P < .05) propodon of heifers receiving the BE treatment than of heifers receiving the NE treatment initiated corpus luteum function by 14 mo of age. In Exp. 11, there was a bull exposure x growth rate interaction (P < .05). The effect of bull exposure was greater within the HG groups than within the MG groups. However, heifers fed to attain a moderate or high growth rate and exposed to bulls attained puberty at younger ages than heifers not exposed to bulls and fed to attain a moderate or high growth rate. Mean ages at puberty were 375, 422, 428, and 449 (pooled SEM = 8.6) d for heifers in the BE-HG, BE-MG, NE-HG, and NE-MG groups, respectively. Therefore, we accept our working hypothesis that exposure of heifers to bulls increased the proportion of heifers attaining puberty by the initiation of breeding at 14 mo of age. Furthermore, growth rate interacts with the stimulatory influence(s) of bulls to influence age at puberty in beef heifers.